BAE Systems vows to deliver satellite ground stations project despite five-year delay

An artist's rendering of Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) in orbit. WGS provides flexible, high-capacity communications for the Nation's warfighters through procurement and operation of the satellite constellation and the associated control systems. WGS provides worldwide flexible, high data rate and long haul communications for marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, the White House Communication Agency, the US State Department, international partners, and other special users. More information at http://www.afspc.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/249020/wideband-global-satcom-satellite
An artist’s rendering of a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite in orbit. (Air Force Space Command)

BAE Systems Australia has responded to criticism of its performance on JP 2008 Phase 3F, which Kim Gillis, Deputy Secretary of the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), has described as “the project that keeps me awake at night” within the portfolio of more than 150 major projects that he manages.

The project was approved in 2009 to deliver an enhanced satellite communications (SATCOM) capability through the delivery of a satellite ground station in Western Australia and an upgrade to the existing Optus C1 ground station at HMAS Harman near Canberra.

Gillis said the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Capability Terrestrial Enhancement project is a four-year project that is currently five years late, with prime contractor BAE Systems on a ‘stop payment’ for the last three years and a commercial negotiation under way.

“It is the facilities on the ground that link to the satellites that give us access into the Wideband Global SATCOM system, the WGS; this has been a problem,” Gillis said as he provided the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee with an update on the Projects of Concern list on March 30.

“There has been poor systems engineering requirements management; lack of coherent verification and validation, planning and execution strategies; and poor application of quality standards. This is one of those ones which have not gone well at all.”

However, a spokesperson for BAE Systems Australia told Australian Defence Business Review that the company intends to deliver the capability.

“We are at an advanced stage of system testing, and we are working closely with CASG to ensure we deliver this project to its satisfaction,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

When asked by the committee what would fix the JP 2008 Phase 3F project, Gillis suggested that work at the HMAS Harman site might be terminated and said the commercial negotiation with BAE Systems might result in a “significant” payment to the Commonwealth.

“The part of this which is the Harman side is now getting so late that subsequent programs will subsume it and make it not economically viable for us to continue, which then falls into why we need to go into a commercial negotiation with BAE about a settlement,” Gillis said.

“The issue was a lack of knowledge by BAE about the integration and the US compliance, because a significant part of this is the US compliance for ground stations linking into the WGS. That is fundamentally where we have had the failure.”

JP 2008 Phase 3F was added to the Projects of Concern list in September 2014.